Overtraining happens to everyone – Just last week you were hitting personal records on the bench, squat, and deadlift – but then it all came crashing down this week. All of the sudden your grip strength is terrible, your elbows ache, and your ankles feel exhausted. Heck, your warm up weight from last week is now your one rep max!
Can you guess what happened?
Yup, you’ve overtrained – and now you’ve got an injury to deal with.
So now what? To start, you first must understand what really happens when you exert yourself. “Tiny tears form in the muscles that help them grow bigger and stronger as they heal”, says Tommy Boone, Ph. D., a board certified exercise physiologist. “Soreness only means there are changes occurring in those muscles, says Boone, and typically lasts a couple of days.”
However, you can cause more harm than growth if you train without giving yourself enough time to recover. After all, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that exercise doesn’t just stimulate muscle growth — it improves your mental health, mood, digestion, hormones, and much more. Before injury strikes, read my list of four signs that you might need a break from the gym.
Signs You’ve Been Overtraining At The Gym
6. Not Seeing Progress
Are you putting in the effort, but not seeing the results you deserve? If so, it’s possible that you are overtraining. Muscles need some time in order to recover, and that is only possible when you give your body enough rest before pushing yourself again. In fact, when you’re overtraining you’re muscles are actually doing the opposite of growing – they’re tearing over and over again.
If you are one of those guys who goes to the gym at least six times a week, sometimes without missing a day for weeks at a time, then perhaps it’s time to take a step back and check yourself. Everyone needs a rest day at some point, professional bodybuilders and athletes included. Actually, it’s these rest days that encourage your body to go into recovery mode, or protein synthesis, which can be critical for packing on muscle.
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5. Sudden Appetite Changes
Sudden changes in appetite, more specifically, a decrease in your overall hunger, is a common overtraining symptom that many people overlook.
Overtraining at the gym is known to cause an uptick in hormones such as norepinephrine and epinephrine, which can sometimes inhibit your appetite. It’s important to note however that an increase in appetite
It’s important to note however that any changes to your appetite, not just a decrease in hunger, can my a sign of overtraining. Regardless of your current state, the best solution is to give your body all of the nutrients it needs in order to build muscle, build strength, and recover from strenuous activity. Try to eat plenty of protein, carbohydrates, and nutrient-rich foods.
4. Everything Hurts
Everyone experiences slight aches and pains, but lifting weights through actual pain is a recipe for disaster. Two years ago I decided to do a shoulder workout despite obvious discomfort I had felt in my right shoulder earlier that day. Sure enough, the next day I noticed the pain had escalated to a level that prohibited me from doing any push exercises – push ups, bench press, shoulder press, etc. – for nearly two months! Had I taken a few days off right then and there, I probably would have avoided the injury altogether.
Muscle soreness after a challenging workout is expected, especially after switching up your fitness routine. But if you are exercising regularly, you really shouldn’t feel injured constantly. According to Livestrong you should typically give your muscles a day or two to recover in between physical training sessions. “However, rest days vary with your training status, workout schedule and fitness goals.”
3. You’re Constantly Tired
Thanks in most part to a rush of endorphins, CNN reports that exercise is supposed to make you feel happier. However, these endorphins are accompanied by a stress hormone, called cortisol too. And when your cortisol levels are high for a long period of time, they can have a bad effect on your mental health. That being said, depression, fatigue, and mood swings are all good indicators that you are probably overtraining.
2. Decreased Motivation
Is your body crying for some rest? If you live the gym life, but then suddenly have zero motivation to lift some weights, there is a good chance that you need a break from the gym. Rather than driving to the gym and “going through the motions”, save yourself the injury risk and take a week or so off. Spend the week focusing on your diet and getting an ample amount of sleep. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that adults should be getting anywhere between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Teenagers should be getting close to ten hours of sleep per night!
1. You’re Getting Sick
There are many ways to screw with your immune system – lack of vitamin D or sunlight, high levels of stress, poor sleeping habits, eating more sugar – but if none of these symptoms seem to be relevant, then you could possibly be overtraining at the gym.
If you’ve developed a cough, sniffles, headache, sore throat, or congestion, it might be time to take a week off from the gym and let your immune system get back to normal.
It’s hard to acknowledge that you’ve been overtraining at the gym, but it’s very easy to treat – simply take some time off and you’ll be ready in no time. Being the stimulus addict that I am, I personally don’t quit the gym cold turkey – instead I’ll take a week off from hitting the weights, but I’ll still throw in a few light cardio days. I even throw in a few “maintenance sets” on some of my favorite pieces of home gym equipment too! Playing a sport like tennis, baseball, or volleyball works well in this case as well.
Like I mentioned above, receiving enough sleep each night will also help your aching body recover as well. Just remember that you’re going to need at least seven hours of quality sleep each night, more if you are a teenager.
Not sure if your overtraining is gone? Well how do you feel? After a week or so of rest you should feel rejuvenated and ready to lift again, but everyone’s body is different. If you still feel a little sluggish after a week, take an extra day or so off and re-evaluate after.
What are some things that you do in order to recover from the gym? Let us know in the comment section down below.